Google Blog Search | How Google Blogsearch ranks your Posts… In their own words! (or not)

Google Blogsearch (or should it be “Blog Search”? – yeah spaces matter) was recently written about by my friend Alister Cameron as a guest post on Problogger.

His post was entitled:- “How Google Blogsearch ranks your Posts… In their own words!

Yes, I have used almost the same title, just so it is clear that this post is very much related to the one Alister made and Darren’s blog.

I made 2 changes to the title:-

  1. My previous post on blogsearch ranked very well for “blogsearch” and not “blog search”, despite tagging it with both variations. I made sure my title has the other variation in addition to Alister’s words.
  2. The “or not” signifies that I don’t necessarily agree with everything stated in Alister’s post

Rebuttal?

My first thoughts were to write a rebuttal of many of the points Alister raised. I was extremely concerned about the aftermath of lots of new bloggers reading Alister’s post, and making some horrible mistakes.

Audience & Perspective

Problogger.net attracts a different audience to my own blog. Darren and his guest writers have to write content suitable for that audience, and do that very well.
I don’t want to pigeon-hole the content on Darren’s blog, but the following phrase comes to mind – “Bite Sized Chunks“.
That might mean covering less points, but in more detail or with more explanation, or covering lots of points briefly, most often with lots of bullets.

Remember my blog is (or some might say was) about niche marketing, thus this blog is an example of how a blog can become successful in a niche that appears to already be saturated, and still offer totally unique content. I target my audience very specifically.

Ok lets talk about blog ranking…

The 2 Most Important Factors
For Blog Ranking In Google Blog Search

This is actually very simple:-

  • How fresh your content is
  • Exact keywords in the title

These factors are not really discussed in the patent, they might seem obvious, but are easily overlooked.

Even when sorting by relevance, in Google Blog Search the most relevant posts are the first few freshest. If there is lots of fresh content on a particular keyword, factors other than keywords in the title might not even come into it.

If you don’t have the exact keyword in the title, you are unlikely to rank highly. You can rank highly for “blogsearch” or “google blogsearch” and not even appear in the first 100 results for “blog search” or “google blog search”.

That is definitely evident from my previous analysis of Google Blog Search which only used one variation in the title, but used the variation with spaces in subheadings throughout.

Google only list one relevant document per domain with Google Blog Search, unlike the primary Google Search which may rank 2 pages.
This post, because it will be fresher than my previous post, will most likely displace my previously high listing on the term “blogsearch”, at least for a short while. I did grab and annotate a screenshot before the change takes place.

Google Blog Search

It should also be noted that a lot more people used the term “Google Blog Search” when discussing the ranking blog documents patent than “Google Blogsearch” – it is easier to rank with less competition for the term, but a number of highly respected blogs have used that term, both before and after my post, within the title, so something must be affecting the longevity or retained ranking position.

Alister is well aware of these blog ranking factors as being the most important, as his recent post about how to get on the first page of Google shows.

Here is what Alister stated:-

Very cool. But a few “excitement dampeners” to bear in mind:
1. Your post is only there until three more recent blog posts are indexed, which can happen quickly.
2. The keywords have to be in the title of your post. That a little limiting.
3. Google don’t always show these blog posts. Indeed, I repeated the same search just now and… no blog posts listed

That was to get into the blog listings at the bottom of normal search results, which don’t always appear.
Google Blogsearch however doesn’t treat 5 day old news as being “fresh”, and thus content with longevity will rank higher. A good example (at least today) is this search for Auctionads which at least in my data centre lists a 6 week old article by Techcrunch in first place.
It is also interesting to see how search results for auctionads also change rapidly in the primary Google search results. Lots of people have been posting about auctionads category matching recently, and that has affected the short term results in Google. It will be interesting how that plays out long term.

Long Term Quality Ranking Factors in Google Blog Search

I should note as I did in my previous post that Bill Slawski wrote a great initial analysis of the ranking blog documents patent, and the the best bullet point analysis was posted on SEO Round Table.

Keyword in Title

Without the exact keyword in the title, you are going nowhere fast. It might be possible to rank for longtail search terms and exact phrase search terms without it, and in fact at time of writing (though as soon as this article is published this will change), if you do an exact phrase search for “Google Blog Search” my previous article on Google blog search that had “Google Blogsearch” in the title, still ranks 14th, due to the frequency of the other version in the text, and in subheadings. Remove the quotes, I won’t appear.

Factors From The Patent

I am not going to extensively write about in this post things which I covered in my in depth look at Google BlogSearch and Ranking Blog Documents Patent.

It is a challenge covering the same topic multiple times without repeating myself. I am going to mainly refer to the ideas covered by Alister.

Feed Readership

It seems to have an influence, but maybe not as much influence as you might think. I think Google might give a blog like Techcrunch with 300,000 readers slightly more credibility than a blog with 1000 readers, but the most important factor is that you have some readers who subscribe, not just website activity.
There might be a difference between 10, 100 and 1000 readers, but I don’t think it is a huge difference.

As an example, at least based on my data centre, I still rank first on terms like “Google Reader Feedburner“. Part of that may be the optimization of the article, but I also think there might be some benefit due to the amount of times I have written about both Feedburner and Google Reader in the past. The content is “on topic” for my blog.

One thing that I pointed out in my original post is that the patent was issued around the same time as Google Reader was launched. Google must have been using 3rd party data at that time in some way, such as Bloglines, and possibly things like Technorati Favorites – I am still experimenting on my speculation regarding Technorati Favorites mentioned in my blog ranking writeup, though Maki seems to have been extremely successful in gaining a few new technorati favorites. I have been exchanging Technorati favorites since November last year – it does seem to bring in a few extra visits per day, but mainly from the front page of Technorati of those that have added you to favorites.

It is a shame that most of the people who jump on meme bandwagons for things like Technorati favorites don’t place similar emphasis on building up their real targeted subscriber numbers, probably the ultimate key to blogging success. I will leave discussion on why you should aim for targeted subscribers to another post.

Blogrolls

I don’t like blogrolls, I much prefer links from content when I write something good that you might want to share with your readers. I also wrote recently how in a similar way I don’t like various top commenter plugins. I have also shown how a Top Commentators plugin can be used only on your front page.

Rob has also hacked the Top Commentators Plugin so that instead of not showing on all additional pages, it adds nofollow to all but the home page.

I might even add it to this blog, or a variant, but I have to work out how I will add some more internal linking to compensate. Actually I had some ideas on that, and Rob has solved those too.

Just because Google says in a patent document that they might take blogrolls into account doesn’t mean it is a good idea, because ultimately a blogroll leaks link equity to lots of unrelated sites. In many cases it is the blogging equivalent of link exchanges, and it has been well documented that Google frowns upon that if done excessively.

Lets also take a look at what was said in the comments on Bill Slawski’s original post on the blog patent, which confirms my own views.

The patent application really doesn’t emphasize having a blog roll on your own site, but if you do, you likely improve the chances that someone might add a link to your site upon theirs, especially if they find value in your posts, and their readers might, too. There are more that I would like to add to my own blog roll, but it’s getting pretty long.

Bill’s emphasis is on the possibility of more incoming links, it is more a community thing than any kind of SEO benefit.
It should also be noted that most SEO blogs concentrate more on linking through to each other than the SEO for their own site, and someone looking for Bill’s great content is going to subscribe.

Kirby Also later on asks…

Bill, I may be mistaken, but I thought Vanessa Fox said that Google ignores the footer and sidebars. Wouldn’t that make the blogroll irrelevant? Any thoughts?

Bill’s reply was…

Hi Kirby,

I’ve heard or read a lot of things that Vanessa has said, but don’t recall that statement from her exactly, or the context within which it was stated.

It’s possible that Google has a fair handle at being able to distinguish between the main content sections for many blogs, and footers and sidebars. They do a pretty good job of distinguishing between multiple reviews that appear upon the same page for local search, and the patent application that describes that process of visual segmentation states that the process it uses could be used to identify sidebars, headers, footers, and other parts of pages.

Might Google ignore links within a sidebar or footer for rankings in Web search, and consider them for ranking in Blog search? Maybe.

Another possible option is that Google applies different weights for links depending upon where they are located upon a site. The patent application on historical data and information retrieval described a way of applying modifications to pagerank, both positive and negative, for links based upon things such as age.

One of the things rarely talked about, but I have mentioned quite frequently is that there isn’t one single best way to optimize a website or blog. Google have 200+ factors, and it could well be the case that complying well with one positive factor might have a negative effect on another factor.
A “Jack-of-all-Trades” SEO philosophy, doing a little bit of what everyone recommends might not be as effective as taking one specific direction and maximising the benefit of just a few ranking factors.

One thing that is important to note is that nothing about blogrolls in the patent suggests that a blogroll has to give a followable link across the whole of your website to count.
There are ways to have a blogroll only appear on your front page, or appear on all pages, but with the links on everything but your front page be nofollow.

SEOs often recommend that if you are going to have a links page, don’t call it links. I would suggest calling it blogroll ;)

Andy Aren’t Dofollow Links From Comments
Totally Unrelated Links As Well?

I suppose it depends on who leaves them. I frequently use the link box provided to link through to highly related content. It might not have good anchor text, but in the blogosphere people linking with good anchor text is rare anyway.
People link to me such as “Andy Beard has an interesting post about XYZ” and the link anchor will be Andy Beard.

Trackbacks you can easily choose your dofollow anchor text, because it is normally your post title – Dofollow plugins remove nofollow from trackbacks too.

I can’t say whether a link from a comment is worth more or less than an link in a blogroll on a single page. Lots and lots of Blogroll links isn’t a good idea, and I definitely wouldn’t want to encourage blogroll link exchanges.
They might help with Technorati currently, but I don’t think that is a viable longterm situation.

A link from a comment from most blogs using dofollow (and even a few still with nofollow) are counted for Technorati Authority links, but only if the Technorati bot visits the post. Also note that you only need a link once every 6 months.

Tagging

Tagging is often confused, and this was made especially bad when people started referring to “Tag & Ping” – effectively auto-submitting to social bookmarking sites.

As far as I am concerned that isn’t tagging. Tagging requires classification of a document and providing related terms.

The primary way of tagging your content isn’t by submitting it to bookmarking sites that are still offering followable links and classification, but actually giving your “blog documents” their own tag data, or tag data equivalents.

Technorati and probably Google regard tagging as

  • links that contain the microformat rel=”tag”
  • categories
  • labels (if you use blogger)

Google are looking for data on what your document is about, as defined by humans, and not how popular it is. Popularity of a document they can get from other sources, such as measuring traffic, and links.

I mentioned that my previous post on blogsearch has been maintaining good rankings on that terms for a while.
How many times a document gets Digged is very unlikely to be a direct measurement of quality, as you can see by how many Diggs that post got (I don’t have a cultivated Digg audience)

Ranking Blog Documents

Yes, that post at time of writing hasn’t received any Diggs. Digg doesn’t offer much in the way of useful data to Google anyway, and sites that might have given data, such as Del.icio.us have everything nofollowed. Del.icio.us might be useful for Yahoo, but not Google.

For more details on tags, I have lots of information on [tag]tagging[/tag]. (yes that is a tag)

My preference currently is to only use tagging to my own content pages, but I might well start also linking through to new tag spaces such as those provided by Bumpzee or Blogcatalog.
The reason being they are providing live links to me, so I will provide live links back in support.

Tagging documents in many ways is a Web 2.0 version of “Meta Keywords” that is suitable for syndication.

If you use WordPress, and don’t currently use a tagging plugin, I would actually wait for the release of WordPress 2.2, which will have built in tagging – then see which plugins will be actively supporting and adding the best ways to present that data. It will be something I will be actively looking at, and I am sure there will be lots of news about it, and solutions / word-a-rounds being offered.

If you are using a platform that doesn’t support internal tagging systems, I would point tags at sites that return some of the link juice – in my mind Blogcatalog and Bumpzee are good alternatives.

Alister did mention this aspect of tagging in his writeup, but very briefly

(Note: it would be remiss of me not to make one more point on tagging: tag your post content properly. That’s the love Technorati, in particular, is looking for. When people bookmark your site to, say del.icio.us, they tag as they see fit. When you tag your own post content, your get the chance to cover all the bases you want covered. So get it right!)

Concluding Answers

Alister asked a number of questions at the end of his post on Google Blog Search, and I though I would give my answers here:-

Does it make sense to have Blogsearch separate from the main Google search engine?

I actually think we will eventually end up with more variations of the search page, with the ability to add Google Custom Search Engines to our personal search pages.
Google Blog Search might also gain a personal touch, giving a bonus to those blogs you are subscribed to in Google Reader.

As Google Blogsearch gains in popularity, will new (or adjusted) SEO strategies emerge along with it?
They already exist and have existed since Technorati was first becoming popular, though they will become more popular if Blogsearch was ever made a primary feature of the main search page. Blogsearch still has the Beta moniker.

How many people actually use Google Blogsearch?

Hitwise provided some data back in December

Do you use it? Why? What do you like about it? Anything you don’t like about it?

I use it extensively especially for Google Alerts in blog posts. I use it occasionally if I am writing about a breaking story for research.
It is also quite a good way to gauge how competitive a niche is for certain terms, instead of using allintitle:

How do you find Google Blogsearch compares with Technorati?

I don’t like Technorati’s methods of judging authority, and it is purely personal – in the past I have checked what settings I needed to use for my own content to show up in the search results on Technorati, and I wasn’t too impressed about blogs with far less links appearing in their higher authority category.

One thing I have noted about comparisons is people stating that for some reason Technorati has more results faster – I have never noticed this, Google pick up my content within minutes of me posting it.

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the great analysis. I just read Alister’s post a few hours ago and have been thinking about it all day — now I have a whole lot more to chew on :-)

    I’m sure a lot of these factors are tuned in a variety of ways. I’d think Google would be in the habit of fingerprinting and classifying sites by characteristics (blogs, forums, etc) and gradually tuning the algorithms for performance based upon whatever metadata about the pages that they can glean.

    I’m wondering if in many cases they aren’t yet implementing everything they would like to in this regard because the processing power gets too expensive (in terms of CPU time, not $$), even for them.

  2. says

    Andy,

    You da man!

    I need time to digest what you’ve written here and it’s a way busy day, so I’ll have to come back to you as soon as I can give your response the thoughtful response it deserves.

    Thanks you so much. The blogosphere is a better place for your efforts :)

    -Alister

  3. says

    The more I read about Google Blogsearch the more I think it is great! Fresh contents a really well ranked. But will I write posts in every hour:)?

  4. says

    My blog no where to be found in Google Blog Searh results. I just tried to search for “What To Do With Unwanted Traffic”- as you can see Plugim shows for my post but my own post not even there on the last page. Any suggestions?

  5. says

    What I use is the Feedburner Pingshot service rather than pinging myself. The only site I ping is Feedburner.

    I honestly don’t know whether that is a better option than pinging a long list, but I do know the list of sites that pick up my content in the stats is quite long, and always has been while using Feedburner for this.

    With Pingshot, you do have to select a few extra services, because not all of them are defaulted, and some effectively duplicate some submissions.

    There are other ways to ping, including pinging directly, web based services, various software apps, and scripts etc.

  6. says

    Few weeks ago I cleaned up the list for pinging in my WordPress, not even FeedBurner. But I do have an option that FeedBurner pings other services when it finds new content on my blog. I do use SiteMap plugin, but that should not affect the Google Blog searh, at least I do not think so.

  7. says

    Just wanted to add that I may just delete my feed from PlugIm, I have noticed that on several occasions it outranked me. Right know it picks up my feed through FeedBurner… Do you think I should just give them the feed straight from my website?

    • says

      Read my post about timing of link attribution – it is going to happen regardless until you have more authority, but check the results 2 weeks later and you will most likely rank higher.

      Most syndication sites have quite high throughput of content, thus specific items rarely rank highly for long.
      p.s. I am sure you are going to love the post I just wrote on PRWeb

      • says

        I did not realize PRWeb has an affiliate program. Good incentive, no good for me ;) I already have an account with PRWeb.

        On the Google Blog Search subject. It lookes like my blog is indexed there. If I look it up by the domain all my posts (including “What To Do With Unwanted Traffic”) are there.

        • says

          As far as I am aware they don’t have an affiliate program, this was a special deal Ponn managed to set up, after some discussions with the guy running the courses on PRWeb.

          If you read my post carefully, you might notice that I mentioned that existing customers can also qualify, and Ponn in her post gave very specific instructions on how to do that.

          You have been looking to test the higher priced press releases, so give it a try… on the house

  8. says

    Very informative and also I like the other sources you link to! I just started my blog and trying to learn all about bloging!!

  9. says

    Loved your invaluable suggestion. Thought this might of interest to you although it is not related.

    Say you had a blog setup as a folder example
    http://www.nepalvista.com/blog

    and you submitted to google blog search. It started indexing
    later you realize that you actually wanted a subdomain
    so you created a subdomain http://blog.nepalvista.com/

    Now google shows both in their blog search although the old URL brings up a page with meta nofollow,noindex. Does google not see that tag ?

    Is there a way to tell google not to index http://www.nepalvista.com/blog
    but index the subdomain, perhaps using robots.txt Even so, how to do this ? because the subdomain is actually pointing to the folder. If I add Disallow : http://www.nepalvista.com/blog
    would be same as Disallow : http://blog.nepalvista.com/ ?

    I would greatly appreciate if you anyone can help me with this. I think google should allow not just blog pinging but also removing a blog from its index. Is that available, where? I am in vain.

    Thank you everyone, blogging seems to be fun, not it does come with lots of pain!

  10. says

    You need to set up a 301 redirect from the old to the new if there were any backlinks (and there will be if you pinged anything)

    Eventually Google will work it out.

    Also maybe there is still something in your config of WordPress that is set to the old folder.

    The big question is why have it on the subdomain, unless the blog is totally unrelated to your main website. You lose out on lots of SEO benefits because the links and traffics are related to a different domain.

  11. says

    Andy –
    Great post! I didn’t realize that Feedburner Pingshot now goes to Google Blogsearch. I’ve got 2 questions for you.

    1 – What ping services do you recommend using through your own blog is you’re using the feedburner pingshot? Would you recommend getting rid of pingomatic and the rest of them?

    2 – I’m interested in getting a forum into the BlogSearch results. I see other forums there and can’t quite find any answers on how to do it. We’ve also got a feed for the forum on feedburner, and as of today, added Google Blogsearch to the pingshot options. Have any other thoughts or suggestions on this one?

    Thanks for reading, and I look forward to the answers!

  12. says

    I hope you can help me out with this:

    I am currently using a WordPress installation for my blog about an upcoming video game called Warhammer Online. I have Warhammer Online set up in my “All in one SEO” plugin so that it is present in the title of every page on my blog and 90% of my posts are tagged with the term as well.

    I used to appear in Google BlogSearch but all of a sudden it stopped showing me. I’m not showing up in Google Alerts for that term anymore either. There isn’t very much competition for this term in Google and my site has arguably better SEO than most (though maybe my current situation disproves that…).

    I haven’t been able to figure out why Google has given me such hate in BlogSearch. I am the top ranked site if you search “Warhammer Online blog” in regular search and I rank top or highly for several other related terms as well.

    What am I doing wrong?

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